The great summer getaway is underway, but many leave it till August, especially later in the month, when it's cheaper. Whether staying in the UK or heading overseas, we've a series of savvy tricks to bag you a suitcase-load of savings if you're about to head off. All aboard...
1. The re-book your hotel trick - save £100s. If the price drops after booking, you may be able to re-book for less. Alison tweeted: "Saved £200 when price dropped 2 days pre-travel." Full how to re-book tips.
2. Get near-perfect rates worldwide this summer and beyond. The pound's weak, so here's how to lessen the blow. A specialist travel spending credit card gets you the same exchange rate banks get, and avoids the 3%-ish 'non-sterling exchange fee' other plastic adds. Always set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL every month to minimise interest. Cards take 1-2 weeks to arrive, yet even if you're set to jet off shortly, bag 'em for future trips. Our top picks are...
- Long-term winner: Halifax Clarity (eligibility calc / apply*) has good feedback & a) it's a Mastercard, which usually gives the best exchange rate, & b) it has low charges for cash withdrawals.
- Slightly cheaper at ATMs: Creation (apply*) is similar, with withdrawals cheaper. We've little feedback though (tell us).
- Easy-to-get card, bad for ATMs: Aqua (eligibility calc / apply*) has no exchange fee, pays 0.5% cashback & accepts some with past CCJs/defaults. But ATM withdrawals are pricey.
These aren't the only specialists. See our full list - if you have one, it's not worth shifting. Check the three overseas debit cards too. Or, if you prefer them, see Prepaid Travel Cards.
The Golden Rules. Full info: Top Travel Cards (APR Examples).
1) Pay on the card - it's cheaper than withdrawing cash.
2) Clear IN FULL or these cards are 18.9%, 12.9% & 34.9% rep APR.
3) You usually pay interest on ATM withdrawals (not spending) even if you clear in full. Halifax and Creation still beat most bureaux.
3. Find the cheap tickets train firms hide - two tix for one trip can save ££s. We've been shouting about it for years and recently it's been all over the news - how split-ticketing makes no sense but can slash costs. Train firms have finally said they'll start talks with the Govt to reform fares but you needn't wait for them to save - do it NOW using our free Tickety Split tool.
We found a single from Manchester to St Ives at £144, but the train stops at Cheltenham Spa. So on that journey it was £32 Manc to C. Spa, then £58 from there to St Ives - £90 all-in. Same train, same time, possibly even same seat. Loads more cost-cutting tips in Cheap Train Tix, incl that advance fares are usually cheaper, yet few realise you can buy 'em last minute.
4. Beat hefty mobile roaming fees using a UK tariff abroad. A trick allows you to use mins, texts and data in 18 countries incl France, Spain and the US for the same price as in the UK. See Roam free.
5. Find best rates from 30+ bureaux in secs. If you need cash or can't wait for a specialist card, our TravelMoneyMax holiday money comparison tool finds the cheapest travel cash near you. The app (iPhone or Android) does the same plus has added functions such as storing your plastic to show your cheapest way to pay.
6. Play the Easyjet refund trick. If you've booked an Easyjet flight, check its price now - if it's dropped, use our Easyjet refund trick to get the difference back. Maria emailed: "Thanks to MSE, I got a £450 Easyjet refund. Its price promise works."
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7. £9 a year travel insurance (if you've booked, you need it NOW). If you don't have it once you've booked a trip, and you or a family member get ill or need to cancel, you've no recourse.
Cheapest annual policies (under-65s): Go away 2+ times a year and annual policies usually win. A year's Europe cover for a 32-yr-old costs from £9; for a family worldwide, from £44. The cheapest no-frills cover is usually Holidaysafe Lite*, but also check Coverwise* and Leisure Guard Lite*, as they beat it sometimes.
Full help in Cheap Annual Travel Insurance. Also see Cheap one-off & Over-65s insurance + cover if you've a medical condition.
8. No comprende? Free app translates into 52 languages offline. Just download the app before you go.
9. Don't delay car hire booking - get it for £7/day. There's still time to rent a cheap set of wheels. We found £7/day for the last week of Aug in Malaga, though it can be £20+ on the day, plus there are fewer vehicles available the later you leave it. Full help in Cheap Holiday Car Hire, but at speed...
- Use comparison sites. Try Skyscanner*, Kayak*, TravelSup*, Carrentals* - as many as you've time. Once booked, check details with the car firm.
- Beware stealth fuel charges. Some make you pay for a full tank & return it empty - adding £80ish if you don't drive far. Most sites let you filter by fuel policy though. See Fuel charges help.
10. Don't be fear-sold car hire excess - get it 90% cheaper BEFORE you go. Hire firms charge up to £20/day to cover the cost of the excess if you claim - usually with dire warnings if you don't. But you can get standalone cheap excess insurance for £2/day, as Neil tweeted: "@MartinSLewis excess insurance £12 for 3 weeks - was £120 from rental firm".
To do it, use the Moneymaxim* comparison. Then compare to Leisure Guard* with 20% off code MSE20, Reduce My Excess* with 20% code MSE03, Questor* with 20% code MSE2097 and Direct Car Excess Insurance* with 15% code MSE2101.
11. Nifty tool finds cheapest UK fuel. Prices vary widely, so use a cheap forecourt finder tool to track down your nearest and not-so-dearest, eg, in central Manchester we found the cheapest petrol at £1.08/L & most expensive £1.14/L. In central London the pricing swung from £1.07/L to a whopping £1.65/L. And don't fall foul of the great service station fuel rip-off.
12. Have a 35,000ft picnic. Liquids are restricted through airport security, not food - avoid paying £5 for a stale sarnie. See What you can take.
13. The rip-off to prove you should ALWAYS pay in euros, if asked. Shops and ATMs overseas often ask if you want to pay in pounds or local currency. We found a Greek cash machine adding a 20%-ish charge to pay in pounds. Plus see full tips on why you should always pay in local currency.
14. Slash airport parking costs from £160 to £40/wk. Early booking tends to win. Use our discounted links to comparison sites...
We found £40/week at Stansted when we could have paid £160. MSE user Martin tweeted: "Thanks, quoted £160, got it down to £70-odd through your site." See Cheap airport parking for more.
16. Turn your smartphone into a free sat-nav worldwide. If it's got GPS, convert it into a free sat-nav for 187 countries. Download before going abroad to avoid pricey data.
18. Over 5m EHICs are invalid - is yours? The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives access to local GPs or state-run hospitals at the same price locals pay - if it's free for them, it's free for you. See Check, get and renew EHICs for FREE. PS: If any site tries to charge for one, it's a scam.
19. Pack a child's car seat for free. Whether you're hiring a car or not, if you travel in one, kids should be in a car seat. These can cost £5+/day for a week (more from a taxi firm), but many airlines let you take 'em free. See Child seat tricks.
20. Bag a £58 Eurostar day return to Paris or Brussels this August. If you can leave it to the last minute, these tickets (norm up to £309) are a bon prix, though booking conditions & availability are tight. See £58 Eurostar (plus 29 Cheap Paris Tips if that's where you're going).
21. Free app to instantly plan your holiday itinerary. Forward your confirmation emails (for flight, hotel, car hire) and a clever free app instantly organises them into an itinerary. See Travel planning apps.
22. Beat the voicemail roaming trap. In some countries you can be charged a whopping £2.50/min just to receive voicemail, and another £1.50/min to listen. Don't get stung like forumite Chris11: "Back from South Africa to find £50 bill for 10 roaming voicemails, even though I did not retrieve them." Turn it off.
This article first appeared in the weekly email on 3 August 2016. Its contents were fact-checked and updated on 9 August 2016.
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